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Old 16-01-2008   #1
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What happens when you put a battery in backwards :D

Okay people, I admit this is an extremely stupid thing to do, okay EXTREMELY EMBARASSINGLY stupid. But yes, twas a rainy night, and cold, and the batteries look similar, yet the terminals are reversed. I know the terminals are also different sizes to prevent this kind of stupidity, but this also didn't make me twig. Only after i attached the second terminal and it started sparking and smoke came out of the engine bay did i realise my mistake.

Now to the issue of what to do next;

First of all, mine is a 1989 gran finale x1/9 (obviously 1500). I am assuming the alternator is shot but i have not had a chance to volt meter test it yet, my first question if anyone knows, is 45amp output the norm? if not i wasted money already.

The only problems I notcied so far apart from the fact it needs jump starting, is that the indicators are SLOWWW, and in fact stop working when the wipers are on. Oh and the radio doesnt work, I'm not sure whether this is the radio itself or whether a fuse has just blown somewhere or something like that.

Can anyone give me hints as to what kind of problems I might be facing, is it something I can do myself given a bit of time, or will I have to hand it over to the electrians, and cry as they charge me 300 +

cheers. Paul.
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Old 16-01-2008   #2
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Re: What happens when you put a battery in backwards :D

I think you'll find that the only damage will be to the distributor and the alternator. The regulator on the alternator will be fused and the result is the output is uncontrolled - if it works at all.

The distributor has a capacitor on it (the condensor) that won't have liked the reverse current very much either.

Check your clock still works but pretty much everything else is relays and switches which don't care.

I once put the battery charger on my car the wrong way around to boost a flat battery and can honestly say that other than a little acrid smoke I couldn't find any damage at all. The battery itself is another matter of course as the potential current draw is much higher and it's the current that does the damage.
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Old 16-01-2008   #3
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Re: What happens when you put a battery in backwards :D

Thanks for quick reply jimbro, I'll proabably just swap out the alternator then since I ordered it anyway. How will I find out if there is any damage to the distributor then, oh and the clock reset every time I turned the engine off anyway, very annoying !!! Paul.
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Old 17-01-2008   #4
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Re: What happens when you put a battery in backwards :D

If the distributor is working you will get the car to start - or more accurately you will have a spark from the ignition.

The coil gives you the big spark but you also need a smaller version in the distributor between the points. The condensor does this job. If you go through the basics of setting up the timing, get TDC, take the distributor cap off, loosen the distributor clamp, etc. you can turn the distributor slowly by hand with the ignition on and actually see the spark from the condensor across the points. Obviously I don't recommend doing this unless the car fails to start as you are effectively resetting the ignition timing but if it doesn't run then you'll know where to start looking. No spark across the points means the condensor has failed. If that sparks but you don't get the HT spark from the plugs then the coil has likely failed. Both are easy enough to replace and not too expensive.
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Old 19-01-2008   #5
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Re: What happens when you put a battery in backwards :D

Hello again Jimbro, unfortunately you are speaking to basically a complete car novice, I reallywould love to be able to **** about with the engine but I'm in not qualified state to do it really, can I assume that if it will jump start then things are okay ? Wish I did motor mechanics at college or something, Paul.
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Old 19-01-2008   #6
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Re: What happens when you put a battery in backwards :D

If it jump starts then the ignition side of things is definitely ok. If you can get the car to run with the jump leads but with the charge light on then the alternator is as good as dead.

Personally I would consider changing the alternator before messing around, if the regulator has failed you could be putting much more than 12v through the electrics and causing more damage (normally the voltage peaks at about 13.4v according to Fiat specs).
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Old 23-01-2008   #7
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Re: What happens when you put a battery in backwards :D

It seems from the problems you have described i.e. weak electrics that you have a bad earth. I couldn't tell you where, I have now sold my X1/9 Lido which was at the best of times impossible (electrically speaking) Get a good ol' wiring diagram and find and clean ALL the earths. Also make sure your battery is clamped tightly as this can cause some rather adverse effects on Italian cars.
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